I often ran alone through the shabby downtown streets in the city. These streets were where we the homeless and the dregs of society were drawn to and called home. We had fast trains shuffling hundreds of thousands to and fro every day. There were numerous long-abandoned subway tunnels below ground—some were filled with the homeless. Others like me were surface dwellers. Airplanes and jumbo jets were endlessly flying above the urban landscape, which was cluttered with high-rise apartments and condos.
Towering high above the ground, these skyscrapers kept the skies overhead practically hidden. I occasionally looked up beyond them. Usually the sky was dingy with thick gray smog, but there were those rare days when it lifted a little and I could see the blue sky laden with grayish white clouds marred by chemtrails. Humans had destroyed this once great and beautiful city, as with most other cities throughout the world.
As cliché as it may sound, the city was a concrete jungle. There were no fresh green lawns or trees here. I remembered being a young boy growing up in the suburbs, which were filled with parks, fields, and forests, all only a short bicycle ride from home, and all for us to freely explore. But even the homey comfort and happiness that I recollected was all but extinct, save for the rural regions that skirted the city. The capitalistic perversions of our governments and corporations had exploited the suburban beauty by densely populating it in every available location at outrageous prices, until there were no more parks, fields, or forests to frolic in. This was our city as planned out by our self-proclaimed forward-thinking leaders.
Most humans were sheep (also alternatively referred to as “lemmings” or “sheeple”), and were generally indistinguishable one from another, with their heads and eyes pointed forward. God forbid they looked to the left or right. They moved as directed, with their noses near-buried in the asshole of the sheep in front of them.
Those in charge—the shepherds—were rewriting history over and over, day by day, and the sheep just lapped it up as fast as it could be conceived. Never questioning, they kept moving in the direction they were being herded. The majority were too preoccupied with staying aligned with their fellow sheep to wonder about or seek the truth. Most of the shepherds were sheep as well, they just answered to a higher level of shepherds.
The minority who did see through the bullshit and dared question the mainstream were those I referred to as being on “their path to enlightenment.” They were the metaphorical black sheep, the ones who stood out and dared stray from the rest of the herd. They often tried to stir up the rest of the sheep. They were a small but ever-evolving group, although frequently discredited by the governments and corporations through public shaming, labeling, and being pushed over the brink of sanity, such that no one would take them seriously.
We, the homeless, we represented failure. We populated the grimy bowels of the city, we populated the places where children were warned to never venture into. We were hidden away from the “regular” citizens—they didn’t want to be reminded of the worst that could happen, and especially that occasionally it did happen. We were a boil on the ass of a prince.
The bowels were where the broken and ostracized ended up. The mentally and physically ill, the runaways, and the forgotten—all of those who society quietly ignored, those who had simply slipped or been forced through the cracks and been left wandering aimlessly.
The ostracized included the black sheep, those who pushed the boundaries too far and/or questioned the status quo a little too often. No shepherd liked a nonconformist or a shit disturber in their herd, because they continued to openly question and protest the status quo, often trying to entice the other sheep to stray and find their own path. The shepherds would try to bring them back in line, but these shepherds were responsible for keeping the whole herd in check, so they could only spend a little precious time trying to gather the strays before the rest of the herd started wandering about too.
As a result, the sheep left behind tended to roam about, until eventually either disappearing into the bowels or finding their beacon, their path to enlightenment.
Of course, there were always the ill-intentioned strays and shepherds who attempted to lure the herds by selling their snake oil, their instant happiness in a bottle. These individuals destroyed lives with their drugs and promises of a fast track to a Utopian existence.
I eventually found a small group of friends and forward thinkers with whom I could share my ideas as well as disappointments and frustrations. Friends and foes alike came and went. Each had met some purpose, although their roles weren’t always clear at the moment they were there. Open conversations with these friends and acquaintances gave me a wider spectrum of mind-blowing opportunities that sometimes influenced how I approached and processed thoughts and logic.
Our constant questioning of the norm brought on a deserved paranoia; we were a tremendous source of fear and a true threat to the shepherds’ status quo. Although generally a minority, we were building strength in numbers. However, when one of us was cornered we were typically blackballed and tormented until being driven over the edge, pushed to the bowels to minimize or discredit our influence.
We all came from various backgrounds. Some of us were well educated, some not at all; an education, no matter to what level, did not imply or ensure genuine intelligence, it simply indicated that an individual was capable of learning and regurgitating higher-level details and specifics.
Engaging in critical and creative thinking is the key to genuine intelligence.
This can be accomplished by breaking problems into smaller, more manageable pieces, and then putting the puzzle back together piece by piece, or cluster by cluster.
Although living in the bowels, my deluded mind remained sharp. I continued examining and defining solutions to many societal problems. However, I often felt as if I was alone, putting together a million-piece jigsaw puzzle only to discover that I was missing a single piece. I feared that all attention would be drawn away from the elegant imagery of the assembled puzzle and put on the gaping hole.
Even as this level of thinking was mastered, it was still flawed by our very nature, by our humanity. By our free will. As I’ve often heard it said, “We are only as strong as our weakest link.” That was the bottom line.
In general, the sheep trusted that their shepherds had their best interests at heart and believed that they were being led in the right direction, that one day in the future they would enjoy prosperity and happiness in return for being obedient.
This was an outdated mode of thinking.
The truth was that our lives were constantly a case of the majority being led by the mediocre minority. It was all about profit and power: more money equaled more power. With some exceptions, the shepherds did not have their flocks’ interests in mind at all, they had their own situations to consider. The shepherds blabbed of zero tolerance for bullying, lying, and cheating, but they were the worst bullies, liars and cheaters. I had witnessed it. I had experienced it.
From early childhood, I had always tended to be a well-intentioned nonconformist and unintended trendsetter, and at times a shit disturber. I had been blackballed some time ago, forced over the edge of sanity, driven from the comfortable life of a common corporate success to this lonely life on the gritty streets. I lost all that mattered to me, not just my possessions and my family, but most importantly my mind.
My rejection from the corporate world did not occur just because I had been outspoken and shared my experiences and opinions of the truth about our corporation and society, it was also because I had offended and/or embarrassed a select group of the higher-level shepherds. I had laid all the cards on the table for all to see, forcing them look at and acknowledge their own irrefutable inadequacies.
They had to get rid of me. I was dangerous.
Although it may at times sound otherwise, I was not an elitist.
Before and after being shamed and shunned, I always wanted to share my gifts, not lord them over anyone. Still, I had to admit that I had difficulty tolerating the empty stares I received from my societal and professional peers when I shared my theories, ideas, and facts. They readily excused my words and behavior by labeling me “delusional.”
All that I really wanted was to help lead my fellow humans toward finding their path. I wanted them to see and react to the truth. I wanted them to open their eyes and see that they were capable of peacefully rising and speaking out, that they did not have to be just another common sheep.
I lived for those rare moments when I witnessed one of the sheep becoming aware.
All that I hoped for from anyone else was that they try in their own way. Was that too much to ask? If so, perhaps my entire argument was moot; maybe I was just an elitist. Perhaps I held the bar higher than I should have expected from others.
I couldn’t recall how long I’d been on the streets.
It was nighttime. There was no moon out. It was so quiet. Too quiet. I could barely even hear the voices arguing with my own thoughts inside my head. I was safely sleeping in my open-ended box outside on the downtown street.
That’s when it happened.
There was a sudden bright light in front of me. The light was warm—this warmth enveloped my entire body. It made me feel like I was floating in space. I was in some state of suspended animation. I could move effortlessly. There were no obstacles or points of resistance. Perhaps this was how it felt to be in the womb. I don’t know. I couldn’t remember.
I pried my eyes open.
Although blurry at first, I could eventually make out a hand reaching out to me. Everything else was black. I tried to speak, but my lips and throat were so dry that I could not even manage a crackle or a croak.
On the street I had seen so much evil done in the name of survival. We, the homeless, were often beaten and tormented for fun by those who were privileged. Many blamed us for living on the streets—it must have been our own fault, right? I had once been a married man, working as a well-educated professional with a great-paying position and a bright future. But the onset of my mental illness combined with my unrelentingly inquisitive mind got in the way of sustaining my picture-perfect life.
Life on the streets of downtown . . . it wasn’t all bad. Sometimes on the coldest of winter nights the police rounded us up and threw us into jail for a night or two; we were well fed and got a good sleep. Most of us respected the rules of the streets. My small clan would share food and money, maybe a bottle of cheap wine, and on special occasions a small bottle of vodka or whiskey. On other occasions, the “good people” were great about keeping us fed, and occasionally sheltered.
But tonight, this hand before me . . .